While North Macedonia awaits the holding of the new intergovernmental conference that precedes the opening of the negotiations for EU accession, the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, declared in an interview for Euronews Albania’s correspondent in Brussels, Ernest Bunguri, that his country has become a model to be followed by the rest of the Western Balkans.
“For us, EU integration is one of the two strategic priorities since independence. We completed one of the priorities this year, with full NATO accession. We are now working on the second priority, on which we made a historic breakthrough this March, with the EU decision to open the negotiations, something that we had been waiting for 15 years after dozens of recommendations met with obstacles placed by neighboring countries”, said Osmani.
The Foreign Minister says that North Macedonia turned into a unique story for the Balkans by closing its open issues with the neighboring countries.
“By closing these issues, North Macedonia was rewarded for becoming a unique history in the Balkans, creating two models: interethnic relations and good neighboring, something that should be used as an example in the region and beyond”, Minister Osmani said for Euronews Albania.
Consensus for the First Intergovernmental Conference
However, the Minister says that before holding the first Intergovernmental Conference, an agreement must be reached on the text of the negotiating framework.
“Now that the EC decision was reached by consensus, I see the first intergovernmental meeting simply as a process that implements it, but that must be preceded by consensus on the text of the negotiating framework, which in fact represents the rules and procedures of the negotiation process. The draft text of the EC and of the Presidency has been acceptable so far, along with the amendments that are being made by some member states, which are adapting it to the new and stricter methodology. Unacceptable for us are the attacks and remarks made to the text of the negotiating framework, issues related to topics already closed with the Prespa Agreement”, Osmani said.
The impact of the relations with Bulgaria in the EU integration path
North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister said that his country has resolved open issues with Bulgaria, so he does not think that Sofia will try to block the country’s EU integration.
“The precondition for starting the talks was not only the Prespa agreement but also the agreement signed with Bulgaria. We closed both these open issues in this mandate, and the signing of the good neighboring agreement with Bulgaria has been a new chapter in our relations,” Osmani said.
He explains that in the past it was politics that did not allow finding common ground between the two countries and those historical interpretations had blocked the development of political relations.
But the agreement with Bulgaria separated these issues and allowed scientists and historians to deal with history, while politicians dealt only with political issues. This led to an improvement of the political relations between both countries, and historians also found solutions regarding a large number of historical figures.
Osmani also believes that the position of the EU countries will not allow that the opening of the chapters could turn into something that can be used as a condition for issues with Bulgaria.
“First of all, I want to say that the position of the member states has been correct in terms of the issue with Bulgaria because they will not allow the bilateralization of the negotiating framework, or that it can become a platform to impose unilateral solutions to bilateral problems, something for which was created another platform, the agreement with Bulgaria”, Osmani said.
North Macedonia’s stance regarding other issues in the Western Balkans
Regarding the situation with other countries in the region, such as the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia emphasizes that regional cooperation is a precondition for the European path.
He is confident that the joint Brussels-Washington intervention can resolve any conflict that has remained in the region. Osmani also praises joint initiatives, such as the mini-Schengen and regional markets.